Europa League Qualifying, 2011: Spurs Crush Hearts, Slovan Upset Roma

Spurs crush Hearts 5-0 at Tynecastle, with Gareth Bale, Rafael Van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe, and Aaron Lennon all on the scoresheet. Read the full report here.

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Hearts Vs Tottenham, Europa League Qualifying: Spurs Crush Hearts 5-0 At Tynecastle

It was a one-sided game, and a one-sided result at Tynecastle, with Tottenham in supreme form as they gave Hearts a 5-0 thrashing. There were 5 different goalscorers for Spurs, who finished with Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Jake Livermore, Rafael Van der Vaart, and Jermain Defoe all on the scoresheet.

Nonetheless, there was a touch of fortune about the opening goal, with Rafael Van Der Vaart benefiting from an awkward Marius Zaliukas clearance to slot past Marian Kello. Shortly afterwards, Jermain Defoe made it two after good work from Aaron Lennon put him through to score.

Hearts’ defending had been statuesque up to that point, and they could do nothing but stand and watch as Jake Livermore, who gave a mature performance alongside Niko Kranjcar to run the game from midfield, played a one-two with Jermain Defoe and put home Tottenham’s third before the break.

After half-time, Hearts came out the better of the two teams. A series of corners were just about dealt with by Heurelho Gomes before Andrew Driver showed some skill to set up Thompson, who put his chance over the bar.

Normal service was soon resumed though, with Gareth Bale making it four, collecting Tom Huddlestone’s fine pass to race past the Hearts defence and Marian Kello for an easy finish.

Finally, Aaron Lennon made it five by finishing off a superb counter-attacking goal, collecting Jermain Defoe’s pass to touch into the Hearts goal and complete the rout.

Overall, a crushingly disappointing night for Hearts, who were tremendously poor against a superb Tottenham side, who were in excellent form for their first match of the season. Even the most optimistic of Hearts fans would be unable to see a way for Hearts to come back from this one – Spurs can make their plans for the group stages now.


SK Slovan Vs. AS Roma, Europa League Qualifying: Slovan With A Surprise 1-0 Win

By the 60th minute, AS Roma were starting to get a bit desperate. Despite starting a team composed almost entirely of reserves, it was clear that Luis Enrique had expected his team to easily score at least one away goal at Slovan Bratislava. When it hadn't yet materialized, the new Roma manager put on Simone Perrotta. Next came the venerable captain, Francesco Totti, and shortly after, Marco Borriello. But despite overloading on potential firepower, instead it was Slovan that took the lead, off a headed goal by Martin Dobrotka (who, incidentally, was the only Slovan starter without accents in his name. Don't say I've never taught you anything).

Roma may be wondering about the wisdom in bringing in Maarten Steklenburg to replace Doni after his Fernando Muslera-esque error lead to the winning goal, but it was likely that the new keeper just hadn't had much to do, and was uncertain how to react when faced with, you know, a ball. Whatever happened, Slovan take a surprise win back to Rome, where it's almost certain they'll face a stronger side.

Don't worry, Roma fans. If you're feeling a bit blue, you can always watch this video of a hedgehog getting a bath:


Hearts Vs. Tottenham, Europa League Qualifying: Lennon Scores On The Counter To Make it 5-0

That’s a classic breakaway goal by Tottenham. Really wonderful stuff. After winning the ball in their own area, Spurs engage in some wonderfully casual play to get the ball out of defence, with Tom Huddlestone eventually surging through the centre, playing a ball out to Jermain Defoe on the left, who centres for Lennon to delicately touch into the near post. It’s a marvellous goal, and worth saying again that Spurs have played remarkably well as a unit considering this is their first proper game this season.

Huddlestone in particular has been superb since coming on, controlling the game and showing tremendous composure on the ball. If Modric is on the way out, Spurs at least have plenty of talent in midfield to compensate.

More misery for Hearts though. Whether they bother to send a full-strength team to North London will be interesting, as they have nothing left to play for now.


Hearts Vs. Tottenham, Europa League Qualifying: Bale Scores To Make It Four

If this tie wasn’t over before, it certainly is now. Gareth Bale is the scorer, collecting Huddlestone’s perfectly-timed ball over the top and taking the ball past Marian Kello for an easy finish.

Hearts had been vastly improved since the first half, and for the first 15 minutes of the second were the better side, with Andrew Driver often providing the spark, the left-winger cutting in from the right, beating Bale and Assou-Ekotto and putting in a fine ball for Thompson to touch over the bar for Hearts’ best chance of the night so far. Earlier, the Scots also had a series of corners, which Gomes was only just able to deal with.

But even the faintest hope of a comeback is now certainly extinguished. Spurs can start making their plans to stop taking the competition seriously in the group stages, and Hearts can look to focusing on the League. This one is over.


Hearts Vs. Tottenham, Europa League Qualifying: 3-0 To Spurs As Hearts Are Outclassed

It’s Hearts 0-3 Tottenham at half-time at Tynecastle, with a rampant spurs having a field day against an insipid Hearts side. The Edinburgh club are yet to turn up, having been impotent and static as Tottenham’s fluid attack have put them in a commanding lead.

Tottenham got into an early lead when Rafael Van Der Vaart was fortunate to find himself through on goal after blocking Marius Zaliukas’ clearance, and the Dutchman passed a serene finish past Marian Kello to make it 1-0. Soon afterwards, Jermaine Defoe made it two, collecting a fine through-ball from Aaron Lennon to put away Tottenham’s second goal of the evening.

Hearts were being outplayed in all areas of the pitch, none more so in midfield, where the Scots were struggling to put more than a few passes together as Niko Kranjcar, showing Spurs that Modric may not be as irreplacable as some think, and Jake Livermore controlled the game. And the latter was to get his reward, the youngster playing a one-two with Jermain Defoe and slotting home for the third of the night.

There’s almost certainly no way back for Hearts now, and they will do well to keep this score respectable, if it hasn’t gone beyond that point already. Tottenham, on the other hand, will be delighted. Their passage to the group stage of the Europa League looks virtually complete.


SK Slovan Vs. AS Roma, Europa League Qualifying: All Zeros At The Half

You know it's that time of year again, time for Europa, when you're stuck seeking streams on sites you've never heard of, and then glued to the computer screen to watch a jumpy picture in a language you don't understand. Or, of course, you just ignore Europe's other tournament. But who can resist Slovan Bratislava hosting AS Roma? I know I couldn't.

Surprisingly enough, the match has been fairly even in the first half - although that might be due to the fact that Roma appear to have started their third string squad. The Italian side have had the majority of the possession, but could do nothing with it in front of the Slovan goal, constantly sending the ball just wide of keeper Matúš Putnocký.

Then again, when the home side manages to get the ball, they often seem to trip over it, perhaps in an attempt to execute a tricky maneuver, or perhaps simply because they've, well, tripped. If it's out of fancy-ness, new coach Vladimir Weiss needs to slap that out of them during the break - it's time to simply get in a goal, because visiting Rome without one will certainly result in Slovan being dumped out of Europa (and this is being said by a Slovan supporter).


Hearts Vs. Tottenham, Europa League Qualifying: Livermore Scores To Add To Hearts Ache

Well, I said this was in danger of becoming a rout, and unfortunately for Hearts, that is quickly becoming the case. Jake Livermore gets in on the act now, playing a one-two with Jermain Defoe and putting away a third for the North London club. A procession for Tottenham, and misery for Hearts.

It’s becoming worse and worse for the Edinburgh side. Their defence has been ponderous and static, their passing has been off and ill-timed, and their pressing and off-the-ball runs have been thoughtless. They simply have not been in this game tonight. Tottenham, conversely, have been remarkably fluid and precise for a team playing their first competetive match of the new season. They look to be gelling into a proper side, and though their opponents have not been of the first-rate, they’ll be a very interesting team to watch in the Premier League on this evidence. Who needs Luka Modric….


Hearts Vs. Tottenham, Europa League Qualifying: Defoe Makes It Two

Talk of the devil – Jermaine Defoe has that goal already. It came after some clever play from Aaron Lennon, who cut in from the left-hand side, played a one-two with previous goalscorer Van der Vaart, and played a wonderful through-ball for Defoe to collect, taking a touch and slotting past Kello in the Hearts goal.

It’s not been as one-sided as the scoreline suggests, with Spurs 2-0 up after just 13 minutes, but Hearts will feel that this tie is almost out of their grasp already. Realistically, they needed a win here, and it will take a hell of an effort for them to find one now. If they’re not careful, this could develop into a rout.

Spurs look hungry, with Bale, Van der Vaart, Lennon and Defoe looking far too strong for Hearts to keep out. Last year, Spurs were missing an effective frontman in that quartet – how different things could’ve been.


Hearts Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Europa League Qualifying: Van Der Vaart Rides His Luck To Put Spurs Ahead

Rafael Van der Vaart has put Spurs ahead, and it’s 1-0 to the away side at Tynecastle. The Dutchman galloped towards the Hearts area, which was well-manned in defence, and tried to play in Jermain Defoe, who was quickly dispossessed. But Van Der Vaart continued his run, and after Marius Zaliukas blasted his clearance straight against him, staggered through to slot the ball calmly past Marian Kello. 1-0 to Tottenham.

It’s been a lively start, and it’s important for Hearts that they keep control of the game after conceding an unlucky goal. They’ll need to get their pacy, tricky wing pairing of Andrew Driver and David Templeton into the game if they are to damage Spurs here. Tottenham, on the other hand, will likely go through the middle, with Kranjcar and Van der Vaart a potentially lethal combination. They will also hope Defoe shows some improved form after a dreadful previous season – a goal for him would be music to Harry Rednapp’s ears.


Hearts Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Europa League Qualifying: Team news

The team news is in from Tynecastle, as Hearts and Spurs face off in a Battle-Of-Britain or other cliche. As a Scot, I should be backing the former, however, I quite like Tottenham, and whilst I’m a fan of Edinburgh, we are in that period known as ‘The Edinburgh Festival’ for the duration of which I loathe the place. So for one night only, all my personal prejudices balance out. This is unbiased coverage. Anyway, the teams:

HEARTS: Kello, Hamill, Zaliukas, Webster, Grainger, Templeton, Stevenson, Mrowiec, Black, Driver, Sutton.

TOTTENHAM: Gomes, Walker, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Livermore, Kranjcar, Bale, Van der Vaart, Defoe.

That’s a strong side named by Harry Redknapp, and a very attacking one too. Whether it’ll prove his determination to actually take the thing seriously, however, is debatable – earlier on, he spoke of reaching the group stages as “a chance to use some of the younger players.” Hmm.

Hearts, meanwhile, go with a strong team, having given Andrew Driver, Ian Black, and Andy Webster a rest at the weekend. With Spurs not having played a competetive match yet, this one could be interesting.


Europa League Qualifying, 2011: Hearts Vs. Tottenham Hotspur And Slovan Vs. Roma Highlight Schedule

It's Europa League qualifying time, which means more teams than you knew existed fighting it out to take part in a competition only Portuguese sides care about.

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